“How do I talk about race with my children?”
That’s what Charisse Moses wonders as she watches the news with her two sons every night.
“I have to create a world where they can live,” Moses said.
The Mt. Airy native isn’t alone. Many mothers and fathers in the community have struggled with finding the words to explain the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others over the past few years.
So they’ve gathered together to form Philly Children’s March, a social justice group catering to families and more specifically, children.
“There are so many adult-led, adult-involved organizations within the city, but we wanted a movement for children because they notice the injustices, too,” said Roberta Frempong, a charter member of Philly Children’s March.
On Saturday at Pleasant Playground, the group held a family friendly rally of sorts titled “A Child’s Right to Play,” marking the one year that has passed since Tamir Rice’s death. The 12-year-old boy was playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland playground when police fatally shot him after mistaking his toy for the real thing.
The officers have not been charged. A grand jury is reviewing the case.
“We’re having the children send letters to the prosecutor and to have the officers fired,” Frempong said. “But we’re really here to let the children play freely because Tamir was not allowed.”
In between sliding and swinging, about 15 kids decorated posters and sang songs, repeating themes of justice, freedom and love.
“I think this is important no matter what you look like, but I am a white woman with black children,” said Julie Markovitz, a fellow member of Philly Children’s March.
“It’s made me look at the unevenness in which justice is applied.”
Markovitz created an extension of the group called Mix and Match: An Intentionally Multi-Racial Play Group. They meet from 10 a.m. to noon at the Lovett Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on the third Friday and first Saturday of each month.
The children play while the parents engage in serious conversations about race
Markovitz says she’ll email an article or share it on the group’s Facebook page, but the dialogue always evolves organically.
“I’m always afraid, what are people going to say, is anybody going to be offended, but everyone keeps coming back,” Markovitz said.
The topic they keep returning to, Markovitz says, is how to talk about race with their children.
“The answer is really different depending on your race,” Markovitz said. “On some level, black people have always been talking about race for survival purposes. And white people have been doing exactly the opposite.”
There were all different ages, genders and colors clapping in unison during the rally. Their thoughts were with Rice as well as themselves and their loved ones. Living only a block from the playground, Moses said Rice could have easily been her children.
“We need to show that we care and that there is hope,” Moses said. “I want to show my children what activism looks like, whether it is just living or getting out and getting involved.”